Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This Next Song Is Only Dedicated To Beautiful People Here Tonight...It Means All of You

Inspired by the famine in Africa, it began with the Do They Know it's Christmas? a single that blossomed into a humanitarian effort reminiscent of George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh.  It was the who's who of 80's (mainly British) pop music scene. Bob Geldof was inspired to do something - to make a difference. And people caught on to the idea. Festivals were not huge yet and they were all mainly political - Greenpeace, world peace, and fighting against nuclear proliferation.

Billed as the Rock Concert of the Decade, Live Aid took place on two separate continents on July 13, 1985. That concert cemented my love of live music. The lineup alone is a time capsule of the 80's: Simple Minds, Madonna, Adam Ant, Sting, Dire Straits, Queen, Elton John, Hall and Oates,  Pretenders, U2, Spandau Ballet, Run DMC, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, REO Speedwagon, The Powerstation, Eric Clapton, and many many many more performers and presenters. Now we are used to TV studio fundraisers - and they do raise a lot of money. But this was different. This was getting all of those people and all of those bands to play - to be heard.

Of course there were the naysayers (queue Bill O'Reilly) who said that the money raised would do no good, or would be given to warlords who would just pilfer the money away on weapons.

 Tim Russert, in an interview on Meet the Press shortly after O'Reilly's comments, addressed these concerns to Bono. Bono responded that corruption, not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to Africa, agreeing with the belief that foreign relief organizations should decide how the money is spent. On the other hand, Bono said that it was better to spill some funds into nefarious quarters for the sake of those who needed it, than to stifle aid because of possible theft.

But for many, they paid their ticket or donated their money and just wanted to see some music. Not all of the big bands of the 80's were present (ahem, Boy George).

But there were so many performers that no one would have ever imagined they would see in one day on a stage. Sting sang with Dire Straits, Tina Turner sang with Mick Jagger, and these two lovelies sang a duet. This was also the performance that I broke up with Boy George and wanted to marry George Michael. I had very understanding parents.

Two performances that echo to this very moment in my music soul: U2 and Queen. These two bands captured not only the crowd, but the world. Freddie Mercury hands down had the best performance and commanded Wembley Stadium. Bono took all those people and gave them a big Irish hug.  

U2's performance was very telling of the future of the band. This was pre-Joshua Tree Bono. This was Bono the child pied piper, mulletted, and making women swoon already. I truly believe the Bono we know today was born at Live Aid with Bob Geldof and 70,000 fans as witness.

And who doesn't think of Freddie Mercury's commanding presence and performance at Wembley that summer of 1985. Not knowing we would only have him grace us with his exuberant presence for a short six more years, I would love to be able to go back to that moment. To see him perform Hammer to Fall, rouse the crowd with We Are the Champions, and lead the Radio GaGa chorus is a glorious moment of our rock and humanitarian history.
We are extremely lucky to have what we do of the ten hours of music. Bob Geldof never wanted something like this to be done again - and most tapes, ABC, MTV, and so on, were destroyed or erased. Some artists such as Led Zeppelin, who performed so poorly that day, were enthusiastically pleased, I am sure. However, there is one irony, that because so many people watched from home, many captured those moments on their new VCR's. You have to admit, hearing Do They Know It's Christmas performed in July in London is a priceless moment. The bad camera angles and missed moments are so glaringly 80's
Twenty three performers sang to us from Wembley, and thirty five from JFK Stadium in Philadelphia (Phil Collins is counted twice with his Concorde flight). The goal was to raise £1 million. The final tally was over £150 million or $280 million.
We will never have another Live Aid. Not that we do not need it. It was a special moment in time that will never be re-lived. The energy and over the top, care free attitude of the 80's is gone. The irony of Madonna singing Holiday at a fundraiser for Ethiopia famine relief would be lost on many. It was a time of need and fear: Famine and the Cold War. Music was and still is going to solve all the problems in the world. If only it were that easy.

Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid

1 comment:

  1. I wish I would have been old enough to GO to one of these concerts. If I were a time traveler I'd do it in a heartbeat! Even with the bad performances...the chance to see all of these amazing artists at once would be epic. And to see Freddie live...priceless.